What Is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to stressful or disturbing events that shatter a sense of security. Situations that create trauma include threats to safety or life, but may also be situations that involve feelings of isolation or high levels of anxiety. Individuals may feel cognitively, emotionally or physically overwhelmed.
What Causes Trauma
The definition of trauma is broad and encompasses both one-time incidents (accidents, death, loss) or chronic circumstances (child abuse, neglect, combat). Trauma is also subjective, as everyone processes events differently.
In other words, what matters most is the individual’s internal beliefs and their innate sensitivity to stress. Trauma is especially common in the lives of people struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Trauma and Addiction
Research indicates an increased likelihood for certain chronic physical conditions and behavioral health conditions among people who experience trauma, particularly during childhood. Traumatic experience has been linked to substance use, mental health disorders and increased instances of risky behaviors.
In the Journal of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental, a study was done that directly linked childhood trauma and alcoholism. The study “reports that “a child with four or more adverse childhood experiences is five times more likely to become alcoholic and 60 percent more likely to become obese, and a boy with 4 or more of these adverse experiences is 46 times more likely to become an injection user than others.”
It is important to understand that experiencing trauma does not guarantee a person will develop an addiction. However, research indicates that trauma is certainly an underlying factor as a source of addiction.
Trauma is also correlated with chronic pain, which may be another trigger for substance abuse disorders. Again, research shows how chronic pain may originally stem from trauma and fuel addiction.
Some statistics from US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health:
- With or without back surgery, nearly 76% of patients with chronic lower back pain report having had at least one trauma in their past.
- Upwards of 90% of women with fibromyalgia syndrome report trauma in either their childhood or adulthood.
- 60% of those with arthritis report a traumatic history.
- 66% of women with chronic headache report a past history of physical or sexual abuse.
- Among men and women, 58% of those with migraines report histories of childhood physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
- Women with chronic pelvic pain also report high rates of sexual abuse in their past, upwards of 56%.
Trauma and Interventions
The correlation between trauma and addiction is so strong, all therapeutic interventions should be facilitated from a trauma-informed approach. That’s why I use a Biopsychosocial approach, which examines addiction as the product of biological, psychological, social and cultural influences. By looking at a robust picture of a client, what they are doing and where they came from, an interventionist can create determine which problem to tackle first.
In the past, interventions and addiction treatment focused solely on getting the individual to sobriety. However, trauma brings intense feelings of discomfort and people often turn to substances to try and numb them. In trying to avoid that pain, they may create new problems with addiction.
In removing the substance abuse, the root issue of the trauma has still not been addressed.
An experienced interventionist will recommend a treatment plan that recognizes trauma and substance abuse often go hand in hand.
It’s important to meet the needs of the individual in a safe and informed way, providing them hope for healing and recovery.
Articles About Trauma
When I was 7, my father died by suicide. To say I was traumatized to learn that he hung himself with a tie would be an understatement. My mother, also experiencing this trauma, had no place where she could share her loss and the feelings of guilt and shame and anger...
Remembering What Life Was Like Before It's hard to believe it's March and just a year ago I was hopping around the country just like the rest of you . I remember March so clearly like a childhood trauma stamped upon my forehead. I was privileged to present at...
I recently wrote about Superpowers. While the truth is we all do not exactly have super powers, we do possess the ability to communicate with clarity, compassion, and validation. So many of us know folks who are experiencing heightened anxiety during Covid 19 -...
Dear ones, It is hard not to ruminate about the tense situations we have found ourselves in the last 90 days. Tempers have flared, emotions risen, and our country has cried out in pain first from a pandemic which has left many isolated, alone, jobless, ill and living...
A Tornado Of A Childhood Last week a wonderful family called me. They were worried about their little boy. Both parents were in recovery and had grown up in alcoholic families. They were concerned about their child. He was 7 and every night he awoke with terrors of...
The other morning, I received a frantic phone call. A young college student who after night of smoking pot and drinking alcohol did not want to live. God must have been on our side as I was able to call 911 and the police were able to get there in time and help this...
Life is so precious. Over the last month, I have traveled hither and yon from West Palm Beach, Florida to Morgantown West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Penna with Houston, Texas and Salt Lake City and ending Los Angeles before returning home to the desert TRAVEL Over the...
I want to thank the military men and women past and present for their service and the thousands of behavioral health practitioners, doctors, psychologists, social workers, counselors and volunteers who dedicate their professional lives to them.
Worried that an intervention could cause even more trauma to your loved one? It doesn’t have to.